Posts Tagged ‘Religious Tolerance’

Different laws for different religions?

January 12, 2015

In colonial Maryland, relations between Catholics and Protestants were so tense that there were laws that defined an insult to either religion as a breach of the peace.

In the Ottoman Empire, people of different religions lived side-by-side in peace for centuries, all governed by their own religious laws and leaders, subject only to paying taxes to their Turkish rulers.

Dmitry Orlov thinks that such arrangements are the key to peace in countries in which Muslims and non-Muslims live together.

The only solution I see is a duopoly, where Moslems and non-Moslems run their respective segments of society according to different sets of rules.

Some rules they must have in common, such as a ban on incendiary, extremist speech. The prohibition against “shouting fire in a crowded theater” applies to such arrangements.

Vladimir_Putin_and_Gusman_hazrat_IzhakovExamples of such arrangements being successful include the Republic of Tatarstan (Russian Federation) where Orthodox Christianity and (majority) Islam coexist peacefully, and mixed marriages can offer a choice of religions to the children they produce.

Another example is the Republic of Chechnya (also Russian Federation) which, having fought a bloody separatist conflict financed by the Saudis and the US, can now successfully combat Islamic terrorism on its own, without involving federal authorities.

Russia is now a dual Christian/Islamic federation; if current demographic trends continue, then at some point it will become an Islamic/Christian federation. So be it. If peace is maintained, nobody will notice or care.

France can embrace the same choice, forming Les Républiques Françaises, and probably will, because what choice does it have—other than losing the war?

via ClubOrlov.

A thoughtful proposal, but I have problems with it—even assuming that dual law works as well in Tatarstan and Chechnya as Orlov thinks it does.


Something I cannot understand

June 26, 2014

I’m not well-traveled, and I speak no language other than English.   The way I try to understand why people in foreign cultures do what they do is to imagine myself in their place.  Usually I conclude that if I were in their situation, and had had their life experiences, I probably would do as they did.

But recently I read news stories about people who wanted to kill close relatives because they were of a different religion.  I cannot understand this.

One report was about “Josef,” a Pakistani man who is in hiding in Afghanistan from his Muslim family who want to kill him because he has converted to Christianity.   The other was about Meriam Ibrahim, a woman who was raised a Christian in Sudan after being deserted by her Muslim father.  She narrowly escaped being sentenced to death after her father’s family accused her of “renouncing” Islam—a religion in which she had never believed.

I believe that people have a right to believe in whatever religion they choose, or, to put it more precisely, I believe that people have a right to state openly that they believe whatever they inwardly feel compelled to believe.   I cannot imagine wanting to kill a relative or loved one because they reject my beliefs and values.

Naziism is the most abhorrent belief that I can think of.  But if a relative become a Nazi, my response would be to make him see the error of his ways, as long as I thought this were possible.   I might give up meeting him on a regular basis if all he did was harangue me.  In an extreme case, if he planned a murder or a dangerous act of violence, I would threaten to report him to the police.  But I can’t imagine killing a loved one or relative just because of what they think, however barbarous.

I don’t think these two news articles justify a general condemnation of all the world’s one billion Muslims, who certainly are not all alike.  But they do justify a feeling of pride and gratitude for the religious freedom of the USA.  I can’t imagine the most intolerant American Christian attempting to kill someone for renouncing Christianity and, if such a person existed, they would be put in trial for their crime.

Despite the harassment and prejudice that Muslims sometimes endure in the United States, I think that they not only enjoy more freedom than do Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Sudan, I think they enjoy more freedom here than do Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Sudan.


A Christian Convert, on the Run in Afghanistan, by Azam Ahmed for the New York Times. Hat tip to Rod Dreher.

Meriam Ibrahim freed again after rearrest at Sudan airport by the Associated Press.

Sudan death penalty case reignites Islam apostasy debate by BBC News.

Is Islam a religion of peace?

July 30, 2010

Islam is a warrior religion.  It was established by sword-wielding men on horseback, not poor people hiding in catacombs. There is nothing in the Koran about turning the other cheek, returning good for evil or doing good to those who hate you. Rather the ethic of the Koran is to live in peace with those who are willing to live in peace with you, but to defend yourself and your loved ones with all your might if you are attacked.

I don’t say this critically.  I am not a pacifist.  I do not turn the other cheek myself. The ethic of being peaceful if you can, but fighting if you must is what I was taught by my father, and what I believe in.

When you call Islam a “religion of peace,” this is not exactly false, but the implication is that Muslims are pacifists like the Quakers or the Amish or the followers of Mahatma Gandhi.  This is easily refuted by quoting some of the fiercer passages from the Koran about waging war against Christians and Jews.

Islam is not a “religion of peace” in the pacifist sense, but it is a religion with which it is possible to live in peace. If you read the whole Koran, you see that the context of those passages is that the followers of Mohammad were fighting for their existence against pagan, Christian and Jewish Arab tribes; there are other passages about living in peace with adherents of those religions if they are willing to live in peace with you.  There is a famous passage (in Sura 2) about no compulsion in religion.

Click on Peace and Love in the Quran for a deeper discussion.

Like the Christian and Hebrew Bible, the Koran is quoted by different people for different purposes. There is nothing in the Koran so bloodthirsty as passages in the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible calling for extermination of the Canaanite tribes.  If you knew nothing of Judaism and Christianity and somebody quoted Genesis 34: 14-29; Deuteronomy 3: 1-7; Numbers 31: 7-9, 15-18; Joshua 6: 21; or Judges 21: 10-24 to you, you would have a very misleading idea of those religions.

Mohammad famously said to followers after a great battle that they had returned from the “lesser jihad,” the battle against enemies, to the “greater jihad,” the struggle to master oneself.

Here is how the Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr described the Muslim warrior ideal in Ideals and Realities of Islam:

If one thinks of the Buddha as sitting in a state of contemplation under the Bo-tree, the Prophet can be imagined as a rider sitting on a steed with the sword of justice and discrimination [between good and evil] drawn in his hand and galloping at full speed, yet ready to come to an immediate halt before the mountain of Truth.

In Islam, when one thinks of the Prophet who is to be emulated, it is the image of a strong personality that comes to mind who is severe with himself and with the false and the unjust, and charitable towards the world that surrounds him. … He is that warrior on horseback who halts before the mountain of Truth, passive towards the Divine Will, active towards the world, hard and sober towards himself and kind and generous towards the creatures about him.

The “lesser jihad” still can be a religious duty, and Islam was spread, in part, through wars of conquest. Within the first couple of generations after Mohammed, the Arabs established an empire stretching from Morocco to the borders of India.

Christianity also was spread by conquest.  At least I think that Christianity would have had a much more difficult time establishing itself in North and South America if it had been Powhatan and Montezuma rather than John Smith and Hernando Cortes who possessed gunpowder weapons. Of the world’s three great missionary religions, the only one that was not spread through conquest was Buddhism.

One reason that Muslim rule established itself so rapidly is that Christians and Jews found more tolerance under Muslim rule than Muslims, Jews and heretic Christians always did under Christian rule.  This wasn’t true in every case, but Christians, Jews and Muslims lived together in relative harmony under Muslim rule in Spain, and when Jews were driven out of Spain by the Inquisition, some of them took refuge in the Turkish Ottoman Empire.